Knesset finalizes exam exemption for immigrant dentists

Bill exempts dentists with five or more years of experience from taking test, and it must go into effect within 30 days.

January 25, 2016 21:52
2 minute read.

Dentist´s instruments. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Experienced dentists immigrating to Israel will no longer have to take an exam to treat patients, after the Knesset passed a law to that effect in a final vote Monday, with 96 in favor and none opposed.

The bill exempts dentists with five or more years of experience from taking the test, and it must go into effect within 30 days.

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Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin thanked the MKs from across the political spectrum “who did not surrender to the snow” to vote in favor of the law, for which he has fought to pass in recent months.

Earlier this month, Elkin described the challenges in getting the law passed. The Health Ministry wanted to only exempt dentists with 14 years of experience, but Elkin convinced Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman to defy his ministry’s bureaucrats and support lowering the necessary experience to five years.

“Originally, the bill said the Health Ministry may exempt dentists, but the MKs [in the joint session of the Immigration Absorption and Diaspora and Labor, Welfare and Health committees working on the bill] decided they didn’t want to rely on the ministry, because the bureaucrats were skeptical, and instead, they wrote set parameters into the law and changed the government bill,” Elkin explained.

“They went with a far-reaching version that went against Health Ministry bureaucrats.

“This is one of the first initiatives that managed to break through [the Health Ministry’s] tough attitude and be considerate of immigrants,” Elkin said.

Nearly 16,000 doctors moved to Israel in the last three years, and like most immigrants, they face language barriers, which make it very difficult for them to pass certification tests that are available only in Hebrew. As a result, 68 percent of immigrant doctors do not pass the test the first time. Currently, there is no legal way to exempt any dentists who make aliya from the exam, which even dentists with decades of experience often fail.

In recent months, the problem gained attention via immigrants from France – the country with the highest aliya rate in the past two years, with 7,900 immigrating in 2015. After failing the practical exam twice, Dr. David Tibi, a successful dentist and expert in transplants with 25 years of experience who made aliya, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which went viral, calling for his certification to be recognized, or he will have to move back to France to make a living.

Meyer Habib, a French parliamentarian that represents expats in Israel, among other places, and a close friend of Netanyahu, pushed the issue, threatening to discourage aliya.

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